Updated: Jan 13, 2021
Licensed in both NY and CA, Lauren Taus is a psychotherapist with over ten years of experience in the field, specializing in trauma and addiction. Lauren works actively with ketamine-assisted psychotherapy in her Venice Beach-based private practice, where her father is her primary prescribing MD. Lauren is also trained by MAPS in their MDMA-assisted therapy protocol, and she looks forward to integrating this tool in her work.
Lauren’s approach is relational, body-based, and integrative. She draws primarily from Gestalt, IFS, and somatic experience. She has over 20 years of experience as a yoga teacher, and she invites her clients to come home to their bodies by feeling more than thinking.
Amplify #6 brings you a beautiful interview with Lauren diving into topics such as the intersection between science and spirituality, and female empowerment through the use of psychedelics.
This interview was conducted and transcribed by Jessika Lagarde and condensed for clarity.
WOOP: You integrate a lot of different healing modalities into your work, from talk therapy to yoga, and psychedelic therapy. Tell us a little bit more about the work you do and how psychedelics came to be a part of your method.
Lauren: I think I’ve always been a seeker. In university, I couldn't get myself out of the philosophy and religion departments. I wanted to know things from a spiritual, philosophical perspective. Ultimately, I went to graduate school to become a psychotherapist because I enjoyed listening to people's challenges in life and offering them support. But with psychotherapy, I found myself a bit frustrated because traditional talk therapy is hyper cerebral, and in my mind, that's generally where the problems exist.
Emotion is energy in motion. You can't think a feeling, you have to feel the feeling. I am not interested in diagnostic assessments. They’re useful to some degree, but my job is to relax the armor and support people through their challenges into their most authentic selves.
When we talk about energy in motion, the body needs to be part of the conversation. I believe we live in a world where we are forcibly trained to divorce from our own somatic wisdom and we conditioned to shut down our own internal GPS.
In my personal journey, yoga has also been a big tool and practice. It helps me tune in to my body and shift my focus from external to internal. I have practiced yoga for over 20 years, and also started teaching it when I started my practice. The word yoga means unity, so we are immediately already talking about Integration.
As a psychotherapist, I believe that nobody is broken, that the hero's journey is always home. So how can I support my clients in getting back to themselves? Getting into their own hearts so they can sit upright in their own bodies and become the leaders of their own lives?
WOOP: How did psychedelics come to be a part of your method?
I started working with psychedelics first through a ceremonial context, always with growth in mind. The word psychedelics means "soul manifesting", so to call them drugs actually does not feel right to me. My own personal journey has been deeply informed by the exploration of consciousness, and my own healing has been aided in that way. A psychedelic experience should have an intention and the right set and setting.
A few years ago, a friend invited me to a MAPS MDMA training, and I knew immediately that this would be the direction I would take in my life. But because MDMA is not yet legal in the US, my friend advised me to do a Ketamine training after that one.
I had seen Ketamine used and abused many times in a recreational context, and that blinded me from understanding how it could be useful medicine within the healing context. As it was the only legal psychedelic in the United States, I went to Dr. Phil Wolfson’s training. As part of this training, I had two experiences with Ketamine myself, and I was witness to over 56 different integration experiences through the other participants in the training. In this container, I got to see the power of this medicine, and I fell in love with ketamine as a tool
Ketamine is my main tool at this time. I am committed to my clients. I love direct service, and I am committed to the larger movement of decriminalization. I am committed to using my work and my voice to widen access in an ethical way, so I use my license and I operate within the current boundaries of our system to create changes within this same system.
WOOP: What were the barriers you have faced when you first started working with psychedelics, and how has that changed over the years?
Lauren: Because it is still such a pioneering space, it takes commitment, action, courage, and training. When I first took my MDMA training, the barrier was the legality of it. And when I started working with Ketamine, I learned that it is not easy to build a practice.
Yet I am deeply humbled by my practice. I am a student, and I will always be. There is no doubt in my mind that all of the personal work with psychedelics that I have done has been preparing me for this. Constant training, sitting with clients, watching, observing, and facilitating were all to get me here. So it is not like it just happened.
But I think that the biggest barrier is mental. If someone wants to follow this career path, you need to be committed and do your own healing work. And keep doing it.
WOOP: You offer customized therapeutic solutions based on the needs of your client. Having worked with so many different types of therapies, could you comment on the similarities and/or differences in therapeutic experiences on the psychedelics you are trained to work with (MDMA, Ketamine)?
Lauren: As I've mentioned before, traditional talk therapy is overly cerebral, and people need a powerful disruption. You can get there with mindfulness practices, but most people are not going to do that work. It's hard. A psychedelic experience, with the right Integration afterward, can get you to the same place quicker.
MDMA Assisted Psychotherapy is THE treatment for complex PTSD. This medicine works because a person maintains a strong sense of their own narrative. The egoic identity construction is in place, but the MDMA supports a person in disarmament. The nervous system relaxes.
During an MDMA therapy session, an individual can essentially revisit the sites of injury, the places where they've been traumatized, and essentially re-imagine and reconstitute themselves in those areas. They can come back to life and see those experiences as part of them, but not as overpowering moments that affect and color their entire lives.
Ketamine is specifically indicated for the treatment of resistant depression and anxiety. It is also excellent for end-of-life care, suicidality, OCD. Ketamine can be a very deep medicine, and it needs to be engaged with consciously and carefully.
The Ketamine experience essentially deteriorates your default mode - your modus operandi dissolves - in such a way that you might not have a sense of the room or even what a room is. There could be a full identity dissolution. This type of disruption allows a person to access different parts of themselves.
As ketamine is also a dissociative anesthetic, the body goes into a place of deep rest. There is a numbing quality to the body, and the mind and spirit get really activated. It can be a highly spiritual trance.
Ketamine therapy is a great trauma treatment and is a lovely entry-level medicine because it can really be contained in a short period of time. I supported a lot of clients reconstituting themselves through these experiences.
It’s important to mention that ketamine is also a medicine that can be customized to the individual. As a therapist, I can work in smaller doses that essentially function as a social lubricant, allowing greater ease in connection and conversation. In higher doses, a person can completely dis-identify from the body and the story of self, which generally lends itself to a softer return - more joy in embodied living.
WOOP: When you have a work that allows you to see such a level of transformation in such a short amount of time and that actually empowers people, how does that feel?
Lauren: That's a great question! I do a lot of attachment-based work, and one of the commonly researched measures that consistently affects treatment outcomes for the good is the relationship, the therapeutic alliance. Carl Rogers called it Unconditional Positive Regard, which is a fancy way of saying love. I genuinely love my clients, and I think they feel it.
In many ways with my clients, I feel like I am birthing. It brings tears to my eyes. It fills my heart to unprecedented levels. It's not for me to be attached to anybody else's processes, it's their work. But there is nothing more beautiful or satisfying than watching someone shed what's dead and come back to life, to shift and awaken.
To bear witness to that and participate up to some level in that journey and process, makes me feel like a mother. I have one client that comes to my mind right now. She is gorgeous but has felt very ugly in her life. Out of our work together she has been creating a lot of art inspired by her ketamine assisted psychotherapy experiences. She created one-piece called Channeling Beauty, and while painting, she shared that she realized she was painting me.
As I understand it, she painted the way she is experiencing our work, the beauty of connection, being held, heard, seen, and loved. That beauty is a feeling inside of us, and she is finally embodying that. Again, feelings must be felt - not intellectualized or evaluated.
I am outrageously privileged and blessed to do the work that I do. When I am sitting together with my clients, they know that they are sitting in love. There is also deep medicine in that. Psychedelics accelerate and amplify these processes. I see them growing, and I feel like a mother.
WOOP: It seems that you embrace both science and spirituality with ease. How do you navigate the incompatibilities of the two worlds? How do they complement each other to give us a more holistic approach to life?
Lauren: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, that's science. Transmutation is happening all the time. As human beings, we are constantly exchanging with the environment and reconstituting our cellular bodies. So when we talk about transpersonal spaces and intergenerational content, there is actually a science to them as well.
When we talk about consciousness, there is no real science to that, and we still can't identify it. When we explore what's happening in the brain with different psychedelic experiences, we get some interesting information, but so much remains unknown.
I think it's lovely to not know. I know I don't need to have all the answers. I am not interested in that. Life is really informed in many ways by the questions that we ask. For me, science and spirituality very much inform one another.
WOOP: We’re very excited about your podcast, Inbodied Life (available on iTunes and Spotify). Season 2 is focused on mental health and psychedelics. How can psychedelics help women in healing, self-liberation, and empowerment?
Lauren: Psychedelics help us take back our own power, shedding what's been put on to us. To those who are in need. The acceptance and the love that can happen through these experiences can free us from what we have been "asked to wear".
Women have been objectified for so long. The freedom, love, and acceptance in psychedelic work can allow a woman to take back her power and body from the way that it has been fetishized, politicized, and objectified. It can bring her to a space of full embodiment and consciousness.
In many ways, women have been conditioned to hate how they look. Psychedelics allow us to really embrace our own unique beauty. Instead of competition and comparison, it can bring us to the space of appreciating and celebrating the beauty of other women as well.
Psychedelics are, in general, such a powerful tool of empowerment, self-respect, and compassion. In the very important conversation of the transformative process, we can acknowledge that the systems of the patriarchy are violent to everyone, even the people they seem to serve. White men, for example, have been asked to divorce from their humanity and emotion. There’s a numbness.
There are challenges in all of our identities. There's suffering everywhere. The systems that we have been operating in don't work for anybody. They breed anxiety, separation, depression, greed, pain, abuse, and others. Yet those systems live inside of us all. How do we shed all the conditioning and hierarchies that have us disconnected from ourselves?
Women are divine. We are creators of life. How can we be in a space of respecting ourselves and our fellow sisters? How can we be in a space of communicating our boundaries well? And in doing so, being in a space of potency and offering information to the rest of the world. I really think women have the capacity to heal the planet.
WOOP: How did psychedelics empower you?
Lauren: I was bludged and breathless at my own hands for the majority of my life. I was in so much self-hate that I was practically narcissistic. I was so obsessed with how much I thought I sucked, that I couldn't see what was in front of me.
Working with psychedelics allowed me to see the ways I have been blinded by my own self-hate. It literally turned my body - which was a battlefield for me - into a playground. Today, I love my body, and that's thanks to psychedelics. It has a hundred percent turned my relationship with my body 180 degrees.
Psychedelics have also allowed me to more deeply understand the journey of my parents, and to fully forgive and love them. I had been angry at them at different periods in my life for the costly mistakes that influenced what I decided about life and the belief systems they developed. Now, I have nothing but love for them.
And finally, psychedelics put me in a place of awe and wonder at the world.
WOOP: Psychedelic-assisted therapies are not readily available all over the world. Any advice or alternatives for WOOP readers who are unable to access these therapies, but are interested in learning more about them or in doing the work?
Lauren: First of all, mindfulness practices can really help. Be with what it is, pay attention to your breath, move your body. Let your body move you. Breath, sound, movement, and touch are some of the key ingredients to emotional spiritual processing. You don’t need to ingest anything other than your own breath to have a psychedelic experience!
Coming back to love, dial in with whomever you feel seen and heard by. Find your tribe because we are not supposed to do this work alone. Let your heart be seen. People hold so much shame in the hearts around what has been done to them. It's not about you, and you can let that go.
There are also a lot of online resources indicated for psychedelic work. I love Chacruna, MAPS, The Sabina Project. You can also read up more on certain individuals like Camille Barton, Sara Reed, Rick Doblin, Natalie Ginsberg, among others.
WOOP: Is there anything else you would like to share about anything else you are working on or excited about?
Lauren: The hero's journey is always home. Nobody is broken. I believe in intergenerational trauma. We are carrying and operating in loops that are much older than we are. I believe that any feeling we feel individually also belongs to the collective because we are really one being.
As human beings, we signed up for a curriculum of separation, but we are not separate. Whatever work you do to heal and hold yourself, results in a powerful impact around you. This goes well beyond our comprehension.
It's everyone's responsibility. Can you have the humility to call in support as needed? I go to a therapist, I do psychedelic work, I meditate, I pray, I journal. I do the things I recommend. I mean I wouldn’t go to a golf teacher that doesn’t golf!
It is possible for anyone at any stage of their lives to make really powerful healing shifts.
We do matter. We do have an impact. And you can be in a place of vectoring and investing your energy in what you personally want to experience, create and see in the world.
I am truly blessed for doing this work. Thank you for doing this work. Women in partnership with men can create a space of respecting, elevating, and loving each other in a good way. With that, even the sky is not the limit.
Lauren also hosts a podcast called Inbodied Life that focuses on mental health and psychedelics. Lauren’s deepest wish is to use her direct service work and her voice to support the larger movement of decriminalization and de-stigmatization so that people can get the healing that they deserve in a just and equitable world.